I don’t know about you, but for me, getting comfortable in the kitchen has been a years-long process. I can still remember a time when raw chicken breasts scared the daylights out of me. (So pink! So slimy!) I truly had no idea what to do with them or how to convert them into something edible.
Being the die-hard instruction-follower that I am, it’s no surprise that when I began cooking and baking in earnest, I typically would search high and low for a recipe for whatever I wanted to make, and stick to those ingredients and directions at all costs.
The original instructions call for white whole wheat pastry flour, and there’s none in the pantry? I’d either be hustling out to buy some or finding another recipe. Or maybe I’m making cupcakes for a special occasion and finally track down a recipe for the perfect flavor but written for a layer cake. At some points in the past, I probably would have kept searching! Crazy, no?
I’m embarrassed to admit that only recently have I begun feeling confident enough in the kitchen to break away from this approach and rely on my own judgment to make substitutions or (gasp!) improvements to recipes. This is nerve-wracking and very exciting all at once. And, while I have always been very happy to put nourishing food on the table straight from a recipe, I notice I buzz with an extra layer of pride when it’s a dish I’ve adapted or generated myself. Can anyone relate?
Well, with that as prelude, these biscuits are one such item. Inspired by Ina Garten, but with a few tweaks and additions, these came out better than I could have hoped. The slight tang of buttermilk helps give the biscuits a light, melt-in-your-mouth crumb, but the bite of sharp cheddar gives them serious stick-to-the-ribs credentials at the same time. I made these for a recent backyard pitch-in, and needless to say, they were gone in a flash. Good thing we set aside one beforehand to split between us at home! Next time, the full batch might have to stay put on our table, at least if my husband and son have a say.
These biscuits were such a success that they boosted my confidence to make more adaptations and take more chances, even if for the most part I still work from tried-and-true sources. But hey, confidence is a journey, and baby steps are still steps, right!?
Buttermilk Cheddar Chive Biscuits
Yields 8 biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup cold buttermilk, shaken
a generous handful of fresh chives, thinly sliced
2 large eggs, 1 of them separated
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
sea salt, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 2 cups flour, the baking powder, and salt. Mix at low speed to blend, then, with the mixer still running, add the diced butter cubes. Continue to mix until the butter pieces are approximately the size of small peas.
In a liquid measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, whole egg, additional egg yolk, and chives. (Set aside the remaining egg white in a small bowl.) Beat the buttermilk, eggs, and chives lightly with a fork to blend. With the mixer again running on low, add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture. Blend just until combined.
In a small bowl, toss the grated cheese with a small handful of flour, until the cheese is slightly coated. With the mixer on low, add the cheese to the dough; again, mix until only roughy combined.
Dump out the dough onto a well-floured work surface and knead lightly about 6 times. Roll the dough out into a rectangle approximately 10 x 5 inches. With a sharp, floured knife, cut the dough lengthwise in half and then across in quarters to make 8 rough rectangles. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Retrieve the egg white, and add to it a tablespoon of milk or water to make an egg wash. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the egg wash, then sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and the biscuits cooked through.
Source: Adapted from Ina Garten